I must admit that, when I saw that Love Jones had finally—yes, finally—made it onto Netflix's viewing library, there was a part of me that smiled—a lot. Even though I've personally seen the movie so much at this point that I can almost recite the lines, verbatim, along with all of the characters, I think it's cool that a movie that is—wow—now over two decades old is something that still resonates so much with those of us who were in our 20s when it came out and with millennials and Generation Z even now.
I'm telling you, out of all of the Black movies that I'm a fan of, Love Jones continues to remain at the top of my list. It's so real. It's so relatable. It's so Black. And that is why, when I heard that it was a new Netflix feature, I asked my editor if I could pen a piece on why it's the kind of timeless classic that should warrant cozying up on the couch with your boo, having some of your girls over to watch it while sipping a little wine or introducing it to a college student who thinks it's too old to be personally relevant.
There are probably a billion of reasons why I think Love Jones is an awesome tale of Black love and a great depiction of Black culture but, off of the top of my head, here are the 10 that resonate most.
1. The Love Story Is Unapologetically and Unbelievably Relatable
Darius (Larenz Tate) trying to play it cool in approaching Nina as he spills a drink at the bar. Nina (Nia Long) writing on Darius's hand but it being the word "love" and not her number. Darius semi-stalking Nina at the place where she was housesitting (yes, housesitting; she didn't have a job and that is some realism like a mug). Their first date starting off with hanging at some of his friends' house. Them experiencing a first kiss that was so intense that it led to sex—and Darius making an omelet. Darius trying to act like it was all good when she brought up seeing an ex, only to end up going off to Savon about it. Nina showing up with Hollywood at Sheila's party, getting embarrassed while masking it as anger, Darius offering to walk her to her cab stop and saying one of my favorite lines of the film—"Stomping up and down like you lost your f—kin' bike." Nina taking Darius on a date and then trying to play coy when she was horny as well. Darius acting like he didn't care when Josie told him that Nina was leaving and then him trying to chase Nina down.
If you're a fan of the movie like I am, you know I could go on and on.
To me, one of the best things about Love Jones is it reminds us that relationships are euphoric…and messy…and wonderful…and frustrating. Darius and Nina weren't perfect or even really perfect for each other. But they loved each other, they desired each other, and that combo put the will in them to make their relationship work. Between that and the movie being set in Chicago, along with all of the Black culture nuances that ran throughout the entire film—y'all, if that ain't real and unapologetic, not just love but Black love, I don't know what is.
2. Darius and Nina Remind Us Great Sex Only Gets One So Far
I can't remember exactly where I saw or read it, but I do know that many women have praised the kissing skills of Larenz Tate (Vivica especially shouts his skills out on Sway right here). As far as the first kissing scene in Love Jones, it was so magnetic that it earned an honorable mention in The Atlantic's "Actually, Kissing Is Good" article. I get it too. Honestly, if I had to provide a list of some of the best sex scenes in a movie, Love Jones would go on that list. Nia and Larenz have some off-the-charts chemistry and, whenever I watch the movie, I must admit that it takes me back to some of my own experiences in real life (le sigh).
But about halfway into the movie, you know what else happens? I am reminded of why I thought it was important to pen articles like "Don't Mistake A Great Sex Partner For A Great Life Partner" and "Experts Believe Passion (Not Love) Makes Sex Better. You Agree?". If you pay really close attention to how everything played out, you'll notice that a lot of what Darius and Nina shared was passion. It was really after breaking up and experiencing some independent growth that they got to the healthy love portion of the program.
Oxytocin. Orgasms. Each are one hell of a drug. Just because someone puts the "Boon doon"—as Darius called it—on you, that doesn't automatically make them your soulmate. It takes a heck of a lot more than sexual chemistry to make a relationship work and last. Love Jones teaches this lesson oh so well.
3. They Also Teach Us That Game-Playing Gets People Absolutely Nowhere
I recently penned a piece on here entitled "Women Cheat More Than We Think. What To Do If That's You." As I was reading some of the comments across our socials, I was doing a mixture of laughing and shaking my head (side to side, not up and down) because it never fails—when men cheat on women, they are jerks, full stop. When women do it, there is always a justifiable explanation. It's not totally wrong just…"kinda wrong" (if y'all say so).
Nina, boy. Her homie Josie was her girl and everything, but that advice she gave Nina regarding telling Darius about seeing Marvin to see if Darius would get jealous is emotional manipulation 101. So was Nina going there, coming back and trying to jump bad about Darius hanging out with his something-to-do-sometimes "friend", Lisa. Then, once they worked through that, Nina picked another fight over Lisa calling Darius even though Darius never asked about her kicking it with her ex or her dating his homeboy Hollywood. The games we play, y'all.
Even though the blow-up that caused Darius and Nina to break-up was hard to watch, what I liked about it is everything got out in the open; they were able to take some time apart, process, and come ultimately back together in a much more real and honest space.
Remember in the movie Two Can Play That Game (Morris Chestnut and Vivica A. Fox) where the main female character said at the end that she realized you can't control a man with games and rules—especially ones that you may not be keeping yourself? Love Jones is a movie that echoes this sentiment. Very well. Any time you're tempted to play a game or two, watch the movie instead for a little bit of a reality check.
4. All of Us Know Each of the Main Characters in Real Life
You know acting is done well when you kind of forget that that's what's happening right in front of you. The cast of Love Jones had such good chemistry and dialogue with one another that sometimes I wonder if they went off script and ad-libbed a lot of their stuff. Either way, pretty much every character reminds me of someone who I personally know to this day.
Think about it. All of us have an always-horny-always-keep-it real friend like Josie (Lisa Nicole Carson). All of us have a Sheila (Bernadette L. Clarke) who has no screen saver on her face and is constantly throwing side-eyes. All of us have an Eddie (Leonard Roberts) who is the king of "It's not what you say, but how you say it." And, all of us have a hatin' ass "friend" like Hollywood (Bill Bellamy) who we tolerate because he's funny as hell.
If Living Single is an ode to Black friendship on the tube (and it is), Love Jones is definitely an ode to Black friendship on the big screen, which brings me to my next point.
5. The Friendships Are Loyal, Authentic and Healthy (Except for Wood)
When Nina broke up with (whew, he was fine) Marvin (Khalil Kain), Josie helped her pack. When Savon was cheating on his wife with a fellow teacher, Darius called him out on it. When Wood was the wackest and pulled a Lil' Fizz (some of y'all will catch that later), the entire team let him know how foul he was for doing so. Yeah, something else that I really like about Love Jones is it's not just a romantic love story; it's a platonic one was well. It beautifully depicts intimacy between men and men, women and women and women and men—single and married alike. It's a reminder that Black love has layers and each one is stunning in its own signature and purpose-filled way.
6. Isaiah Washington Was Still Woke Back Then
2019 has blown my mind on a few levels. And while what I'm about to say probably doesn't even scratch the Top 50, it is something that caught me off guard and is relevant to this list. As a fan of the art of acting, Isaiah Washington gets his props in my book. Crooklyn. Girl 6. Dancing in September. Soul Food (the series). Get on the Bus. His bumpy-yet-still-relevant ride on Grey's Anatomy. An indie flick where he was pure evil—The Undershepherd. And yes, as the—at least to me—sexy hubby who dished more wisdom than he could take but was still conscious and woke, Savon in Love Jones. And that doesn't even really scratch the surface of Isaiah's IDMB credits.
But after he caught a few of us way off guard by announcing to the world that he was (what in the world?!) a Trump supporter (le sigh again), I've actually watched Love Jones a couple of times this year, just to remind myself that Isaiah and Savon used to have a whole lot more in common than they seem to now. Savon, talk to your boy. Goodness.
7. Creatives Are Winning
Nina is a photographer. That's dope. As a fellow writer and author, Darius quitting his job to write a book is magnificent to me. Yes y'all, not only were these two lovers both creatives, they supported one another's craft; you've got to give that props on a whole 'nother level.
Plus, the movie offers another teachable moment when it came to their professions. While they were both living in Chicago, I think a part of why they couldn't make their relationship work was because they were still trying to manifest their purpose. But isn't it interesting that once Nina moved to New York to work for, I believe it was Vibe and she thrived for a year, Darius was able to complete his novel? Then, once they were able to scratch their professional itches, they could finally get their personal lives on track?
If you're someone who is a creative and is currently on the fence about stepping out, or if you are trying to figure out if you need to put a relationship on hold until you can figure out what you want to do and be, Love Jones definitely has some scenes that you'll totally be able to connect with; they might even offer you a bit of much-needed clarity too.
8. It’s One of the Greatest Shout Outs to the Art of Spoken Word
I got my start in writing as a spoken word artist. I used to be a house poet at a joint called The Spot here in Nashville. As life would have it, the very first standing ovation that I ever received was for a piece called I'm Single and That's All Right with Me (that's still the case, by the way). I penned and performed it in the fall of 1997. Spring of 1997 is the year that Love Jones was released. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that it provided some of the inspiration that I needed. Anyone who is a spoken word artist or poet (which are similar but not exactly the same; spoken word artists and poets know that), they probably have a soft spot where this movie is concerned, simply because it pays homage to the art form. Not to mention the fact that Darius's "Brother to the Night"/"A Blues for Nina" is a classic piece. It was back then. It still is—even now.
9. The Cinematography Is (Still) on Point
As a fan of film, I really dig cinematography and yes, there are scenes from Love Jones that are truly unforgettable. Scenes like when Nina is riding on the back of Darius's motorcycle or when they are playing Hide and Seek (I guess that is what they were doing) while running on a foggy day in the park. There's Darius as he was chasing Nina's train at Union Station. Oh, and don't even get me started on how Nina has a way of always keeping her make-up looking both timeless and flawless or how, when a lighting team knows what they're doing in the presence of greatness—that would be us—Black people shine on a whole 'nother level.
There are some Black films that are cool as far as the screenplay and/or acting goes that I still don't enjoy watching that much because the visuals are dated, corny or both. Yet although I am fully aware that Love Jones is 22-years-old, and it does have a bit of a vintage feel, it still looks good. The cinematography was well done. Very much so.
10. The Soundtrack Is One of the Best…Ever
I reference music a lot in the copy that I write because music is something that I adore on so many levels. And as if all of the other reasons that I just provided weren't enough of a reason to load up your Netflix tonight, another reason to remain a fan of Love Jones until the end of time is because of the soundtrack. Listen here. There's "Hopeless" (Dionne Farris). "I Like It" (The Brand New Heavies). "The Sweetest Thing" (Lauryn Hill). "Rush Over" (Marcus Miller and Meshell Ndegeocello). "In a Sentimental Mood" (John Coltrane and Duke Ellington). And the song that needs to be on everyone's sex playlist—Maxwell's "Sumthin' Sumthin': Mellosmoothe". And shoot, those are just my personal favorites.
Man. I can't believe that penning all of this has gassed me up, once again, to either watch the movie, listen to the soundtrack, or both. But that's the power of a good film. Especially a great Black one. Good move, Netflix. Good freakin' move.
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